The Red Heifer Ritual

In his 2001 lecture on Numbers 19, Dennis Prager says that he believes all the Torah’s laws are understandable, including the inscrutable ritual of the Red Heifer.

Every ritual conveys a value. A salt covenant represents an unbreakable covenant.

Your status is elevated by having obligations, not just rights. The poor person who receives and receives charity is demeaned. If you give, you are ennobled.

If you are in an impure state, you have to go through a ritual to get back to a pure state. This is the ritual with the red cow.

The red heifer ritual makes the impure pure and the pure impure.

Can you think of examples from real life that render society pure but the doers impure?

* How about police? They have a high rate of burnout. They keep society clean by getting dirty. They need this ritual every day.

* Garbage men render our lives cleaner but it renders his life dirtier.

* Soldiers fighting in a just war. Killing human being justly. What does that do to him? It is too bad we don’t have the red heifer ceremony for soldiers in just war. They have nowhere to go with their sense of guilt and impurity. Every decent soldier who killed came home changed. What do you do with his soul? Nothing. We’re bereft of ritual.

Why a red heifer? Because red is blood. I don’t consider this all that inscrutable. And that concept of purifying the impure through dirtying the pure is a concept throughout life.

Vietnam Veteran Bob Kerry can’t forget that night. Here is a good man consumed by that night his whole life. He has nowhere to take the killing of those peasants.

Catholics have confession.

We have a new ritual — therapy. But the therapist has nothing to do with your soul, only your psyche. What will the therapist do then? Therapists are our new priests. That’s why clergy try to be therapists because therapists have become the new priests.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Dennis Prager, Torah and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.